'Blue Milk Special': May the farce be with you

Long, long ago there was a little movie called Star Wars, and it and its two sequels became the highest-grossing movies of all time. Yet, there was a time the interstellar saga wasn't quite as mighty a pop culture juggernaut as it is today. Some time between President Reagan's "Star Wars" SDI initiative and Lucas' CG retooling of his cinematic babies, Star Wars existed primarily in the books, comics and video games that made up the Expanded Universe. Star Wars was a nerdier pursuit, when the true fans followed the adventures of Mara Jade and Admiral Thrawn.

Since the prequel trilogy, Star Wars has barreled back into the mainstream like a hungry Rancor. Merchandise depicting Darth Vader, Yoda and newcomers named Asajj Ventress and Savage Oppress peek from the shelves of every Toys R Us, Walmart and FYE.

If there's something Star Wars fans love to do, however, it's laugh at themselves: For example, Jeffrey Brown has released three books that play around with the idea of Darth Vader as a doting father.  Darths & Droids, meanwhile, has turned screenshots of the Star Wars saga into a long role-playing game.

Leanne and Rod William Hannah also find humor in Star Wars with their webcomic Blue Milk Special. It takes its title from the weird drink Aunt Beru is seen serving at the beginning of A New Hope (and serves as a double entendre for some Jawa lovin'). The two have busy professional lives -- Leanne has illustrated at Marvel, Hasbro and Mattel, while Rod has written for Mice Templar (Image Comics). There's help from other Star Wars fans as well; G. Padilla provides the 3D models for the vehicles, which are the most visually impressive illustrations in the comic.

Here's the Blue Milk Special mission statement: Follow the original trilogy from the beginning, but tell a lot of really corny jokes along the way. Vader, for example, is stripped of his fearsome demeanor. He's never seen without a mug of coffee, which he sips through a straw. (How else is he going to get that cuppa joe through his mask?)  The eyes of his helmet are now arched with the expression of surprise and mischief.  Leia, meanwhile, always seems bored at everything (except when her planet blows up). The Hannahs modeled her less on the bun-headed space princess and more on the real-life Carrie Fisher. As a result, she can often be seen puffing on a cigarette.

The webcomic generally follows the established chronology. Now that it's deep in Return of the Jedi, it looks like it will soon come to a close. (Unless they reverse their stance on not doing the prequel trilogy, that is. Or ... dare I dream ... the Timothy Zahn novels?) The comic is chock full of unexpected detours, though. The Hannahs decide to revisit Wookiee Life Day by poking fun at the much-maligned Holiday Special. Less predictable is their romp through portions of the now non-canon Expanded Universe. There's a nice breather in between episodes where readers can savor adaptations of Splinter of the Minds Eye and Shadows of the Empire. If you've ever wanted to see Dash Rendar rendered noseless and dressed up like Cable, here's your chance.

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